Behold, a host arrayed in white! (Revelation 7:9-17)

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Uncategorized


Friday nights are usually movie nights at my home.  But as we were about to put the movie into the DVD player, I asked my wife to wait.  “What’s on TV right now is better than any movie,” I told her.  “This is real life, and I want to see how it ends.”

I’m sure a similar scene played itself out over the last week in homes all across America.  Eyes were glued to TV sets as the plot lines unfolded in Boston.  First the horrific tragedy of terrorist planted bombs which killed three and wounded countless others.  Then the surrounding uncertainty as speculation ran rampant as to what – or who – was behind the attack.  Fingers pointed in every direction, blaming just about every possible group, as pundits debated the reason for the senseless violence.

And on Thursday evening, as families everywhere were preparing their Thursday night dinners, the FBI held a press conference and revealed photos of two men, younger than I even am, and asked the public to notify authorities if they had any leads on these men.  The plotlines thickened, the story deepened.

When most of us woke up on Friday morning, one suspect was dead and the other at large.  Considering this suspect armed and dangerous, the FBI and local authorities did what is seldom done in America and never before in Boston: they issued a Lockdown order for the entire city of Boston and its suburbs.

As I had the TV on in the background yesterday, I found myself (more than once) trying to imagine what it must have been like to be in Boston on Friday – to hear the mayor, the governor, police chiefs and FBI agents warn people to stay inside until further notice; to try and find activities to do inside (one on of the first “spring-like” days in some time!) with family members; an unexpected day off of work.  I wondered how I would handle that situation.  The unanswered questions (where is this guy? Why haven’t they caught him yet? Is there another bomb?), I think, would have left me cowering in the basement; windows and doors locked…shades drawn shut…almost huddled in the fetal position as if I was awaiting the inevitable.  The sense of fear would have been heightened as agents in bullet-proof vests, armed with assault weapons knocked on doors, asking to search the premise to see if (knowingly or otherwise) the fugitive was there.

Kinda makes you wonder how those disciples felt the weekend of Jesus’ death and resurrection, huh?  The Sanhedrin saw Jesus as a sort of terrorist, executed a manhunt for him that resulted in his execution.  Now, they feared that the manhunt was on for them.  So they huddled together, with the doors and windows locked, waiting for the inevitable.

I don’t think we would have been any different – whether in that Upper Room some two thousand years ago, or kept inside for a public safety day in one of America’s most prevalent cities.

I’m fairly confident about that, because it doesn’t take a lot to make us feel threatened.  It doesn’t take a lot to shut us down out of fear.  It can be as simple as spiders and bats – as my daughter told me yesterday – or bombs in Boston; there are those things in life which are just able to make us shrink back in fear and (even inwardly) recoil into the fetal position.

Have you wondered what frightened John? Here’s a guy that had seen it all.  He was there when Jesus was threatened with stoning and other abuse during his ministry.  He watched as Jesus was arrested, put on trial; he was there when they drove the nails through his hands and feet.  He huddled in the Upper Room that holy weekend.  He was arrested, abused, mocked.  If tradition be true, he was even poisoned!  But, by God’s grace, here he was – some 80, maybe ninety years old, stranded on a scarcely populated island, waiting out the days until he died of old age.

Maybe there wasn’t a whole that threatened John anymore.  There wasn’t much which could be thrown at him that he hadn’t already survived.  But his last letter, the Revelation on the island of Patmos, frightened him.  The terrifying images, symbolic of the attacks against the church led by Satan, more than once made him gasp in horror and fall in fear.

But then…then he saw the vision before us this morning.  An entirely different scene: not one filled with war and destruction and death.  The devestation seen in other parts of his vision gave way to the pristine image of a host arrayed in white.  A number uncountable, surrounding a throne. On that throne?  The God of Creation, and the Lamb.  From their mouths came not the screams of fear and terror but the gleeful shouts of praise and thanksgiving.  Countless voices banded together, singing as one: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.  Amen!  Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!

The question was inevitable.  These in the white robes – who are they, and where did they come from? John was stumped, either because of the glorious scene before him or because he truly did not know.  I don’t know, was his de facto response, but Sir, you know. You’re going to have to tell me.

He wasn’t made to wait or guess.  These are the ones who have come out of all those horrific things you just sawThey have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

I’m not sure whether John saw the faces of this countless host arrayed in white when he first looked, but I like to think that after he was given the answer to the question, “who are they” that he looked a little closer.  Perhaps, then, he began to recognize some familiar faces.  Maybe he saw Peter, or Paul, or his brother James.  His mother.  Mary Magdalene.  Any other number of faces of friends who had long since been taken from the world.  All joining together, singing the praises of the Lamb who was slain and had risen from death! Singing without fear, for the troubles that threatened them were now gone, and there they stood in the glorious life free from fear.

You and I don’t need a miraculous revelation to see what John saw.  We see it every day, don’t we?  That tribulation which John witnessed, recorded in other places of this same book – we’re living in the middle of it, just as John was even back then!  War and threats of war. Terrible tragedies.  Natural disasters.

There’s enough in this life to make us huddle in our basements with the doors and windows locked and shades drawn closed, waiting for the inevitable destruction to end.  Boston.  West, TX.  Newtown, CT. Aurora, CO.  Benghazi, Libya. North Korea. And even our own homes and lives.

Look around you, and what do you see?  A great tribulation, escalating…its enough to make you wonder if this world is spinning out of control.  Who would place a bomb right next to an eight year old boy?  A freak accident at a fertilizer company that devastates an entire town.  Fighting families.  The wrong that we are all so guilty of – it’s enough to draw into question the certainty of our futures, isn’t it.

And every last one of those threatening situations is one more attack by which our great enemy, none other than Satan himself, seeks to lure us out of the sheep pen where our Good Shepherd protects us…and out into the open where snarling wolves wait to devour.

When you feel that urge to hunker down and live in fear, then Behold!  A host arrayed in white!  Look closer, my friends.  Do you see any faces you recognize?  A parent?  A dear friend?  A coworker?

Look even closer.  Do you recognize that face joining together with so many others in singing praise to the Lamb who sits on the throne?  It’s yours.  Yes, yours.

Yes, there you are, dressed as every last one of them is dressed – in a glorious robe of white.  There you are, because the Lamb came to rescue you from this world which seeks to destroy.  There you are, because the Lamb fought your fight for you.  He sacrificed himself on your behalf. He shed his blood to save you from bloodshed and from an eternal tribulation.

And you who, like so many others, have been led to trust him as the author and provider of salvation – your scarlet robes of sin and guilt have been laundered in the Lamb’s blood…by which they are made as white as snow!

Whatever it is that seeks to pry you from the Shepherd’s flock, look closely at this host arrayed in white.  They aren’t there because they’re somehow different from you.  They’re there because the Lamb has kept his promise to them, just as he will keep it to you, too!

Yes, he promises you now that he is watching over you – that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is no reason to fear since he is with you; his rod and staff shield you.  He promises you that whatever threatens you here, nothing can snatch you out of his hand.  He promises you an everlasting life, free from all the perils of this world.

Just listen to the song sung by the host arrayed in white:

He who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

What a wonderful home this is!  The place where we never have to huddle in our homes, doors locked in fear.  The place where the great tribulation of this life is gone.  The place where nothing threatens, nothing destroys, nothing terrifies!

It’s the place where life will be what it was always meant to be: the perfect home, the joyful home, the everlasting home!

And best of all, it’s free!  Paid for, already won – and all by the victorious Lamb, our Good Shepherd Jesus!  Thanks be to God!  He has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  In him, our robes are washed spotlessly clean; in him we have the certain hope that one day he will bring us, too, out of the great tribulation into the land where springs of living water flow!  Behold a host arrayed in white! – and God speed the day that he will bring us to enjoy the life he has already given us!  Amen.

  1. Sonny Genys says:

    We all need encouragement, the more the better. Thank you.

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